FAQ: Attempts to Discredit the “A Child’s View of Gaza” Exhibition

The following is the CJPME’s updated response to recent unsubstantiated allegations about the art exhibit. In particular, this responds to letters to the editor in the Hamilton Spectator, op-ed pieces in “The Times of Israel”, and posts on a faculty forum at McMaster University.

Where can I find information about the origins of “A Child’s View from Gaza” (ACVG), or the impact of war on the children of Gaza?

CJPME has published a factsheet on each of these topics. Please refer to the documents at the links below:

Are the attacks on the authenticity of the Exhibition credible?

No. As of the writing of this FAQ (October, 2012), not a single named academic expert had issued a statement questioning the authenticity of the drawings. A vicious blogosphere article published in “The Israel Times” on October 10, 2012 cited a “unanimous opinion of experts” (with hyperlink) that the drawings were too sophisticated to be by children. Yet when one clicks on the hyperlink, one finds an article on the FresnoZionism.org (Website) – a site that claims to be “A pro-Israel voice from California’s Central Valley” – which cites only the opinion of “a professor of Art at a local university.” Yet curiously, this professor is unnamed. Thus, a “unanimous opinion of experts” is reduced to a single unnamed source.

What’s your response when people say some of the drawings are too sophisticated to be by children?

Children ages 5-14 submitted drawings for consideration for the exhibition. Of the over 100 which made it to the exhibition’s producer in North America, CJPME procured prints of the 27 best works. As a result, many of the most sophisticated submissions figure in the exhibition which is currently touring Canada.

The children had more than just a single session to complete the drawings. Thus, they had time to reflect and rework the drawings over the course of several days. (Because of this, they certainly aren’t the kind of hastily-executed drawings that a child might dash off five minutes before recess.)

Many particularly talented older children (11-14) draw at quite a sophisticated level—similar to adults—as many Canadian parents can attest.

All of the Gaza community centres involved with the exhibition project were sent copies of the exhibition project mission statement, an explanation of the vision for the exhibit, the expectations of the centres and an invitation to join the project. Thus, the children and their instructors knew they were drawing specifically for their works to be exhibited overseas, and over half the drawings are marked with a stamp from the centres from which the drawings came.

What is your response when people say that the drawings are too violent to be by children?

The children were given a choice of topics: daily life in Gaza; their hopes for the future; and the impact of the 22-day Israeli assault initiated just after Christmas in 2008. Most chose to focus on the assault, since that was such a life-altering event in their lives, one which they are still processing.

Children in Gaza witness on an almost daily basis Israeli military helicopters, planes, drones, etc., which not infrequently strike civilian targets in Gaza. It would be naïve of Canadians to presume that the children do not notice and question the extraordinary circumstances of their existence— and the political forces behind them. It is normal and healthy that they depict the scenes they or their neighbours and relatives have witnessed. They have few other tools to draw attention to the most dramatic and destructive experiences of their community.

The drawings do indeed include depictions of the guns, bombings, fires, etc., because that is literally what children witnessed during Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion. Civilian casualties were extremely high— 1400 killed, and thousands more wounded— with apartment buildings, schools, homes and other civilian infrastructure repeatedly targeted by Israel. To have a sense of the breadth of the destruction witnessed by the children, one should read the following reports:

  • Amnesty International. Israel’s Operation “Cast Lead” – 22 Days of Death and Destruction:opens pdf document in new tab
  • Human Rights Watch Report on White Flag Deaths: www.hrw.org
  • Human Rights Watch Report on Israel’s unlawful use of white phosphorus: www.hrw.org

What is your response to allegations that drawings by adults may have been inserted among those by children?

First, it’s important to note that many of the drawings did have the names of the child artist on the back. Second, over half of the drawings bear the stamp of a well-recognized cultural, developmental and social organization at work in Gaza that participated in contributing drawings: the Afaq Jadeeda Association. Afaq Jadeeda is financed and monitored by eminently reputable organizations including the UN Relief Works Agency, CARE, The Global Fund for Women, the Belgian Development Cooperation Agency, the Mediterranean Women’s Fund, and the UN Development Program, among others. A glance at the “gallery” tab on the home page of this organization makes it clear that art, art therapy, and encouraging artistic talent among children are key programs at this centre. link to Afaq Jadeeda web site

The fact that some of the children did not sign their drawings is hardly proof that children did not draw them. As any parent knows, children seldom sign their drawings outside of a classroom setting.

There is no evidence of any falsification of the drawings. Nobody has claimed to have gone to Gaza since the exhibition was launched in 2010, or to have interviewed participants from Gaza, or to have found individuals who admitted falsifications.

The producer of the exhibition was inspired by the powerfulness of the children’s drawings during the art therapy classes she witnessed while visiting Gaza after the assault. Thus, it was knowledge of the potential for very impactful art which was the inspiration for the exhibition. Although drawings produced during the art therapy classes are not included in the exhibition, many of the children drawing for the exhibition were no doubt also involved in the art therapy programs. Since the children knew that their drawings were to be considered for the exhibition, they no doubt tried to do their best work.

Is it possible that people with malicious intent are seeking to discredit the exhibition for their own political purposes?:

Yes. CJPME has noticed a trend whereby exhibition hosts receive forceful and angry messages once the details of each exhibition site are announced on CJPME’s web site. Such messages seek to discredit the exhibition in a number of ways, often with a surprising (and revealing) viciousness and forcefulness. Such allegations have been circulating on the pro-Israel blogosphere since mid-2011, and are nothing but hearsay. The detractors of the exhibition are attempting to cast doubt on its authenticity in order to deflect attention from the devastation, deaths and injuries inflicted during the assault.

CJPME questions the intent of such attacks… Are the attackers implying that there are no children in Gaza? Or that the children have not been negatively affected by the misery of their circumstances? Or that the children are unable to draw? CJPME suspects that the intent is to intimidate anyone who seeks to openly draw attention to the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict— to effectively eliminate any rational public reflection on the conflict. CJPME would encourage Canadians to ignore such attempts at intimidation, and instead to view the exhibition with their minds open to the children’s perspective.